Friday, January 29, 2010

Pot is burning topic at Capitol

DENVER — Lawmakers will likely be asked to back rules regulating the
hundreds of medical marijuana dispensaries that have popped up in
Colorado, rather than trying to get rid of them.

Rep. Tom Massey, R-Poncha Springs, plans to introduce a bill next week
that would require criminal background checks for people selling medical
marijuana, along with regular inspections and audits of the businesses.
The details are still being worked out, but Massey and the bill's
co-sponsor, Sen. Chris Romer, D-Denver, say they would also like to
convert dispensaries into clinics. Clinics typically have doctors and
nutritionists on hand to treat patients, and Romer said many
dispensaries could still decide to close rather than convert.

Massey had considered limiting the number of people medical marijuana
suppliers serve to five or 10, which would have shut down dispensaries
that many medical marijuana users have come to depend on. With the
numbers of registered users growing, Massey said he wanted to make sure
people who need the drug are able to have access to it.

Demand is growing so fast for medical marijuana cards that officials
aren't sure how many people now have them. At least 17,000 do, but
another 20,000 or so have applied and are waiting for approval. At the
current rate, analysts expect 75,000 people to apply in the next fiscal
year. Lawmakers are concerned that some of the growth is coming from
recreational users who have gotten a doctor's permission to use the

Massey's approach is opposed by Attorney General John Suthers, who fears
passing any regulation of dispensaries will legitimize them. He said
voters didn't sanction the commercial growth and sale of marijuana when
they passed Amendment 20 in 2000.

Amendment 20 allows people who suffer from severe pain and debilitating
medical conditions, including cancer, glaucoma, HIV and multiple
sclerosis, to use marijuana in private once they get a doctor's note and
register with the state, paying a $90 fee and receiving a card.

The law doesn't address how patients obtain their marijuana and it
doesn't mention dispensaries, which have grown since the Obama
administration said it wouldn't target medical marijuana users in states
that allowed it.

Suthers said lawmakers should leave dispensaries alone and voters could
pass another measure to get rid of them later.

Massey said lawmakers have to deal with the situation as it is now, as
well as make sure Amendment 20 is respected.

"The status quo is not good for us at this point," he said.

Romer said it was time to "stop the 30-year war on drugs and have
commonsense ground rules."

On Friday, the full Senate is expected to vote on another proposal aimed
at preventing recreational marijuana users from getting permission to
become legal users of medical marijuana.

The measure (Senate Bill 109) would require doctors to give medical
marijuana patients a full exam and provide follow-up care. The bill
would also bar doctors from setting up shop in dispensaries.

People who are convicted of a crime would also lose their medical
marijuana cards, which must be renewed annually.

Romer believes that as many as a third of the current users would be
unable to get their cards renewed under the proposed new rules.

Medical pot in the workplace?

As medical marijuana use becomes more prevalent, a host of issues has
arisen, including this one: Can you light up at work?

As detailed in a Denver Post story by John Ingold, medical pot users are
running afoul of workplace anti-drug policies as employers scramble to
figure out how to handle employees who are legal patients.

Employers ought to have wide latitude in determining whether their
employees can be under the influence of anything while on the job.

For some jobs, it may have little impact whether someone has recently
smoked a joint. But for others, it could be critically important for
employees to be clear-minded and alert.

You wouldn't want someone operating heavy equipment, especially in the
vicinity of other workers, if that person's reflexes were impaired. It
could cost someone their life.

Employers should be able to make that call without running afoul of the

The fact that this has the potential to be a broad problem, we suspect,
is rooted in the number of patients who've received bogus medical
marijuana designations. Few people who are in severe chronic pain, the
most popular reason cited by people seeking medical marijuana
certification, are likely to be in any condition to work.

If you need to smoke a few joints a day just to get by, perhaps allowing
you to cut back on your prescription pain pills, it seems like it would
be quite difficult to work as well.

That is, unless you're not really medically needy and are just looking
for a backdoor way to smoke pot without getting arrested. Then,
workplace rules could be a problem for a wide swath of medical pot

Still, we can envision how workplace anti-drug rules could be an issue
for what we suspect are a relative few people who can find enough relief
in medical marijuana to be able to hold a job. Medical marijuana as
ensconced in the state constitution protects the right for qualified
people to use it.

However, that right has to be weighed against the rights of others in
the workplace, and elsewhere for that matter. Would it be fair for
teachers to come to work stoned?

Furthermore, the medical marijuana amendment also says this about its
use in the workplace: "Nothing in this section shall require any
employer to accommodate the medical use of marijuana in any workplace."

Does "accommodate" mean employers don't have to provide a pot-smoking
lounge? Or does it mean employers don't have to "accommodate" users by
changing anti-drug policies?

It's likely these and other issues will be litigated and worked out
through the courts over time. We also believe that tightening up the
abuse of the medical marijuana system will eliminate a lot of potential
conflict, and we have urged state lawmakers to do so this year.

Oakland pot initiative submits signatures for November ballot

The backers of the Oakland-based state initiative to tax and regulate
marijuana submitted its petitions Thursday, but supporters and experts
are saying no one is holding their breath for legalization come

The California Cannabis Initiative -- backed mainly by Oakland medical
marijuana entrepreneur Richard Lee, who also helped push a
first-of-its-kind tax on city medical marijuana dispensaries last year
-- received approximately 700,000 signatures, with names from every one
of California's 58 counties, according to a press release.

The initiative needed 433,971 signatures to qualify for November's
statewide ballot.

"This is a historic day," Lee said in the release. "The
people of California now have the opportunity to support a common-sense
solution for a broken budget and dysfunctional drug laws."

Lee is the founder of Oaksterdam University.

Similar to the current regulation of alcohol and tobacco, the initiative
will give local governments the ability to tax and regulate the sale of
small amounts of marijuana to adults age 21 and older.

The initiative also increases the penalty for providing marijuana to a
minor, expressly prohibits the consumption of marijuana in public,
forbids smoking marijuana while minors are present, and bans possession
on school grounds.

Supporters of this initiative, as well as other marijuana legalization
initiatives, are saying California is ready for marijuana as a
controlled substance.

Studies by the state Board of Equalization and the Legislative Analyst's
Office show that the initiative will generate billions of dollars, while
recent polls have shown that a majority of Californians support
marijuana legalization.

Local attorney and long-time medical marijuana activist Greg Allen said
marijuana legalization is an idea whose time has come.

"As I understand it, cannabis is the largest cash crop in the
largest agricultural state in the largest agricultural economy in the
history of the human race," Allen said. "Because most of it's
been black market, it's never really been taxed, and that's a
significant amount of potentially taxable commerce that's never
generated any tax revenue. It just seems to me that certainly being able
to get this commodity economically integrated into our economy would be
highly desirable and probably would raise significant tax money."

But Allen said he has some doubts about this specific initiative.

He said the initiative leaves it up to the Legislature to form a
statewide regulatory system for a commercial marijuana industry, which
could take years. Until that happens, Allen said the initiative really
wouldn't change a whole lot.

It would decriminalize possession of less than an ounce of marijuana,
but the initiative doesn't specifically say what the punishments would
be for possessing more.

"If someone is cultivating illegally, what's a felony and what's a
misdemeanor?" Allen asked. "If it's a felony, then it's probably
still worthwhile for the Drug Task Force to be making marijuana busts.
If it's a misdemeanor, they're probably not going to bother. I find that
to be a very important distinction."

He said that local law enforcement doesn't really go after people
possessing amounts less than those the initiative would legalize.

Further, Allen said that until the Legislature acts to put a legal
framework to the initiative to govern the cultivation and sales of
marijuana, there will still be black market grows and an increased
potential for medical cannabis to be diverted to the black market.

Whether or not marijuana advocates agree with the initiative, there is
no denying that it spurs conversation, said Allen St. Pierre, executive
director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws

He said pro-marijuana initiatives generally lose support from the point
when they are initially announced, as opposition groups begin
advertising and speaking out against them. But more importantly, they
help generate discussion, he said.

"It will very much centralize this discussion just the way that
medical marijuana did in 1996," St. Pierre said, invoking a phrase
that was commonly used at NORML's conference last year, "So goes
California, so goes the country."

While NORML initially was hesitant to support the initiative because
organizers thought a legalization measure ultimately would not pass in
November, St. Pierre said they recognized an opportunity to establish
support for a future initiative. NORML announced its support for the
initiative in December.

Right now, it is estimated that about 45 or 46 percent of voters will
support the initiative, St. Pierre said.

"One hopes that we can keep these numbers, build on them and we
won't see any loss on these numbers," he said.

Kareem Crayton, an associate professor of law and political science at
the University of Southern California, said many factors will play out
as the election draws near. Crayton is affiliated with the Initiative &
Referendum Institute based in the USC School of Law.

Speaking in general terms, he agreed with St. Allen's view of an
initiative being a means of generating discussion on an issue.

"The process itself, regardless of outcome, can be an educational
tool to the public," Crayton said, adding that discussion can also
attract funding on either side of a debate, which affects the election
and any future initiative on the subject.

Speaking specifically to this year's election and marijuana legalization
initiatives in general, Crayton said there may be some variables that
aren't expected, such as the type of voter who will support the measure
and how many people show up to the polls.

While a mid-term election year often attracts less people, this year's
competitive governor's race may increase numbers, Crayton said.
Furthermore, the state's budget crisis may attract voters for the
initiative who are usually not inclined to vote. But he cautioned that
there are many factors at work which make results hard to predict.

"Usually in an off-year election, voters are older, whiter and more
conservative, and might not traditionally vote for marijuana
legalization," Crayton said. "But they will support solidifying
the budget. ... It could just attract people that are looking for a way

Thursday, January 28, 2010

St. Helena council wants pot dispensary rules

It could soon become legal to open a medical marijuana dispensary in St.

On Tuesday the city council voted 4-1 to direct staff to draft
regulations concerning marijuana dispensaries as quickly as possible.

City staff had asked the council to consider an urgency ordinance
placing a moratorium on new medical marijuana dispensaries, which are
not prohibited by current city regulations.

But councilmembers said any potential applicants should just hold off
until the regulations are adopted.

Calistoga last fall grappled with the same issue and placed a temporary
moratorium on the dispensaries. In early January the Calistoga City
Council again faced the issue and is currently drafting an ordinance to
extend its current prohibition on the dispensaries for an entire year.
Unless its moratorium is extended, it will expire in April.

City Councilmember Eric Sklar said his father, who died last January of
pancreatic cancer, benefited from medical marijuana.

“If it wasn’t for medical marijuana his last months would
have been miserable in a way they didn’t have to be,†said

He said the city should adopt an ordinance within six to eight weeks
that would regulate how and where marijuana dispensaries could operate,
as well as how to handle any leftover product.

“We don’t want Bob Pestoni’s pigs getting stoned
from eating it out of the garbage,†Sklar joked. Pestoni is the
owner of Upper Valley Disposal Service.

In 2009 the city granted a business license to Napa Valley Marijuana
Growers, an Internet business operated by St. Helena resident Crane
Carter that sells marijuana-themed hats and T-shirts, but not marijuana

Planner Shelley Mills said the city has received an inquiry about
establishing a marijuana dispensary in St. Helena.

Carter, a vocal advocate for the legalization of marijuana, urged the
council to adopt an ordinance to regulate marijuana clinics and provide
easier access to medical marijuana for patients and hospice workers.

“There’s millions of people out there who can’t
speak as I do,†said Carter. “They’re at risk from
their insurance companies or their employers. I’m speaking for a
lot of people.â€

Carter said he would consider opening a dispensary, but he’d be
willing to wait for the council to adopt new regulations.

Mayor Del Britton cast the only vote opposing a new ordinance. He said
the city should look at the issue as part of its General Plan Update.

“I don’t have a problem with marijuana, but my fundamental
problem is can we do this somewhere else besides downtown?†said
Britton. “I just don’t like the idea of a marijuana shop

Sklar said that question will be part of the council’s discussion
as they craft the new ordinance.

Councilmember Bonnie Schoch said the city can model the new regulations
on similar laws adopted successfully in other cities.
“Let’s not re-create the wheel,†she said.

Attorney General Eric Holder has said the federal government, which
still considers marijuana illegal, will not prosecute marijuana clinics
and patients who are operating legally under state laws.

The California Supreme Court recently shot down restrictions that
limited how much marijuana patients who are authorized to use the drug
are allowed to possess.

Neighboring cities have been dealing with the same issue.

Last August the Napa City Council voted to allow marijuana clinics in
the city, but ruled that new clinics will have to wait until the city
adopts regulations this summer.

Dispensary owners, other medical marijuana players tell Springs City Councilors: Bring on the regulations

Conservative ideology would have us believe that regulation is the enemy
of business.

And yet, Colorado's hottest new industry is practically begging the
government to lay down the law. In Colorado Springs, the city's Medical
Marijuana Task Force has conducted months of meetings â€" some
attended by more than 100 growers, dispensary owners, patients and
industry workers â€" with the sole purpose of creating laws that
will restrict their ability to peddle their product. They're just
finishing up a 14-page draft ordinance they hope will get City Council's

"The industry put this together," says Councilor Tom Gallagher, who,
with Councilor Sean Paige, headed the group. "And it's not like one page
[saying], 'We have the right to do this.' It's pretty detailed. There's
penalties for violations."

Many industry workers say they want to prove they can follow rules and
be good neighbors â€" before the state Legislature finds its own
ways to regulate the industry. State lawmakers plan to introduce bills
restricting the practices of doctors who prescribe marijuana and
limiting the number of patients a licensed caregiver can serve.

"The upcoming state regulation takes dispensaries out of the picture,"
says Jarvis Webster, who owns Tree of Wellness dispensary. "I think
medical marijuana would be very easy to sweep under the rug."

The local draft ordinance still has to be picked over by the city
attorney's office, reviewed by the public, and approved by City Council.
(The first, informal presentation to Council is scheduled for Feb. 8.)
Presumably, there will be some changes along the way.

Under the law in its current form, a grower serving fewer than six
patients would be exempt from regulations. Larger operations, like
dispensaries where patients buy pot, would have to be located in
commercial areas, pay taxes, take security precautions, install security
cameras and alarms, stay closed during night hours, run clean and quiet
operations, and operate at least 250 feet from any K-through-12 school.

Growers follow similar rules, though an operation with fewer than 96
plants would be allowed to operate in a residential neighborhood.

New regulations would prevent caregivers from growing more plants than
their patient load allows (six plants per patient) and would ensure
signage does not include depictions of marijuana or associated
paraphernalia. Penalties for not following the rules could include
having a business shut down, revocation of a marijuana license, or even
jail time.

Is all this strict enough?

"Let's just say some of the more progressive communities in the area
think it's a little too loose," Gallagher says, apparently referring to
Manitou Springs. "But it's a good start point."

Councilor Randy Purvis hasn't seen the ordinance, but says he expects
any ordinance will include appropriate buffer zones around schools,
places of worship and residential neighborhoods. He thinks restrictions
should be similar to those placed on liquor or adult stores.

Whatever the ultimate decision, industry people say the draft ordinance
wasn't thrown together arbitrarily.

"We want to make sure our industry is stepping up to the regulations
rather than stepping around them," says Tanya Garduno of the Colorado
Springs Medical Marijuana Council.

Garduno says the industry expects to compromise on some issues, but
wants regulations to be flexible enough to accommodate a family that
just wants to grow a few plants for its own use. If regulations are too
strict, she notes, they'll just fuel a black market.

LAPD Finds Pot Shop Owner Making Huge Profits

Who says you can't make a profit selling medical marijuana?

Despite the protestations of numerous medical weed store owners, who
regularly gripe that they're just making ends meet, Los Angeles Police
Department found a detailed list of the hefty profits made on different
marijuana strains sold at three pot shops owned by the same man, Richard
Over 50 Los Angeles Police Department narcotics detectives and officers
served search warrants today on Alternative Care Collective, 420
Discount Collective and Encino Discount Collective in the San Fernando
Valley after neighbors complained about people selling pot to teenagers
outside the locations.

During the January 27 afternoon search, officers found and confiscated
50 pounds of marijuana, hashish, edible and drinkable marijuana
products, and $3,000 in cash. Khoury was arrested for possession for
sale and cultivation - cops found 68 plants at his Granada Hills home in
the Valley.

One of the most eye-opening things they found was a list of how Khoury
marked up the prices of his medical pot. Here are just a few examples:

Khoury, a 30-year-old former construction worker, bought a gram of Obama
Kush for $10.71 from a pot vendor, then sold it to his patients for
$37.50. That's a whopping profit of $26.79!

Another strain, OG Skywalker, cost Khoury $10.49, and he sold it for
$37.77 - a more than respectable return of $27.28.

Train Wreck, a cheaper brand, costs $5.50, with the owner peddling it
for $20.09 and making another nice gain of $14.59.

LAPD Devonshire Division Narcotics Detective Robert Holcomb told the LA
Weekly that Khoury made approximately $4,000 to $6,000 a day at each of
his three locations.

South El Monte cracks door to marijuana dispensary

SOUTH EL MONTE - With Los Angeles slashing the number of medical
marijuana dispensaries allowed in that city, South El Monte took steps
Tuesday to ensure that the displaced businesses don't land here.

The City Council voted unanimously to allow only one marijuana
dispensary in the city of 21,000 people.

"We are only about three square miles, so anything more would be too
many," said Councilman Hector Delgado. "But under proposition 215 we
have to allow it and give people the opportunity to get medical

The new ordinance prohibits marijuana dispensaries within 500 feet of
parks, schools, religious institutions or homes. It also requires a
security guard be on site to ensure people aren't smoking marijuana near
the dispensary, limits the size of signs on site, and prohibits the
dispensary from selling tobacco, pipes or other paraphernalia.

Delgado's compassion for those who use medical marijuana has grown since
the city started debating the issue, he said.

"I really hope this can ease part of their pain, but I am also concerned
about highly regulating these dispensaries," he said. "We don't want
what happened over in LA, such a proliferation."

In the past 10 months, more than 600 dispensaries have opened up in the
city Los Angeles. On Tuesday the council there passed a long-debated
ordinance capping the number of dispensaries at 70, meaning hundreds
will have to close or move.

South El Monte staff had originally suggested the city allow two
dispensaries, but the council reduced the allowance to one.

"We want to make sure we protect our residents," Mayor Louie
Aguiñaga said.

At least two potential dispensaries have already applied to operate in
the city.

The owner of one of them, Daniel Gonzales, Sr., lamented the limitation
to one dispensary.

"It is good to allow patients to have a choice, for cost purposes and
selection purposes. It is like having a Walgreens and a CVS in a city,"
Gonzales said.

Gonzales applied to open his store, San Gabriel Valley Compassionate
Care, at 1718 Potrero Ave.

Besides the number of allowed dispensaries, he had few complaints about
the ordinance and plans to fully comply.

"I've been here six months waiting patiently," he said.

In nearby La Puente, the city council voted earlier this month to allow
six dispensaries in that city â€" more than than any city in the
San Gabriel Valley. La Puente has twice the population of South El Monte
but is only slightly bigger.

Until now, South El Monte had an interim ordinance banning marijuana

City staff had encouraged the council to act quickly on a permanent
ordinance, citing a proliferation of dispensaries in the county.

According to staff, cities that have unregulated marijuana dispensaries
have seen an "increase in crime, such as burglaries, robberies and sales
of illegal drugs in the areas immediately surrounding such

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Lake Elsinore town hall meeting on medical marijuana packed a full house

A standing-room-only crowd of more than 170 jammed the Lake Elsinore
Cultural Center Monday evening for a town hall meeting that addressed
the topic of medical marijuana.

Hosted by Wildomar resident Wayne Williams, who heads We The People, a
local pro-cannabis organization, the meeting included seven guest
speakers whose backgrounds included law, business, medicine, government
and activism.

Williams said his goal in holding the town hall meeting was to bring the
community together to find a “sensible solution†to the
concerns related to medical marijuana, and said his organization sent
emails invitations to Lake Elsinore registered voters, encouraging them
to “join the dialogue†Monday evening.

He is also pushing to get a city ordinance passed that would legalize
medical marijuana, which is on Lake Elsinore’s council agenda
Tuesday. City council will decide whether or not to extend a moratorium
banning all marijuana manufacturing activities in the city.

In December, council approved an urgency ordinance that immediately
established a 45-day moratorium prohibiting the manufacturing operations
that grow the drug for medical purposes.

If the ordinance extension is passed during Tuesday’s council
meeting, it will go into effect immediately and could last as long as 10

While Wildomar councilmember Sheryl Ade was in the audience during
Monday’s meeting, Williams said none of the Lake Elsinore city
council members were in attendance despite his assertion that he
personally invited all of them to the event.

During Monday’s get-together, the seven guest speakers addressed
issues ranging from cannabis regulation and medicinal benefits to how to
obtain medical marijuana I.D. cards.

Guest speaker Charles Monson, a businessman and quadriplegic who founded
the non-profit Wheels of Mercy, an organization that collects used wheel
chairs for those who can’t afford them, said he supports
legalization and pleaded with the audience to help those who need the
drug for health reasons.

Monson cited problems with prescription drugs for pain relief, and said
cannabis is a safer alternative.

“There has never been a fatal marijuana overdose,†he
said. “Medical marijuana is a health issue, not a law enforcement

Guest speaker Cha Hanna from Americans for Safe Access’s, the
grassroots organization working to legalize marijuana, encouraged
pro-cannabis audience members to take action, by telling them, they
“can affect change.â€

Christopher Glenn Fichtner, M.D., spoke about his research on the
medicinal benefits of cannabis. The Chicago-based psychiatrist said he
has studied the issue of America’s policy on illegal drugs,
specifically marijuana. He concluded that cannabis has medicinal merits
and should be legalized.

“As a psychiatrist, I don’t recommend cannabis for
treatment, but I do have patients who use it and report
benefits,†he said. “I think it’s important that,
as doctors, we listen to these people. There’s a lot more work to
be done and we need to do research.â€

Guest speaker James Gray, a retired Orange County trial judge who
presided over drug courts during his time on the bench, said U.S. law on
drug prohibition is “the largest failed policy next to slavery.
What we’re doing isn’t working.â€

Gray said illegal drugs are available to those who want them.

“Nobody is hanging out near the schools trying to sell our kids
Jim Beam,†he said.

Instead, Gray said drug pushers are peddling illegal drugs to kids.

“This is caused by our prohibition on drugs,†he said.
“We glamorize marijuana by making it illegal.â€

Ed Rosenthal, a pro-cannabis advocate who writes about marijuana, said
the majority of Americans favor legalization and that criminalization
creates a police state.

“We are the majority,†he said, “not

Rosenthal said that when comparing cannabis to legal drugs such as
alcohol, tobacco and some prescription drugs, marijuana is much safer.

“People make the decision to use it and it’s not
addictive,†he said. “People use marijuana to enhance
their lives. Just like people use Viagra to enhance their lives.â€

Among the speakers was also former Norco mayor, Herb Higgins who said
it’s been his duty to “uphold citizens’
wishes.†During his council tenure, he voted to allow collectives
in Norco.

Higgins said he was not familiar with all the issues surrounding medical
marijuana in Lake Elsinore, but that council members are not
“change agents.â€

“If you disagree with what council members say, don’t sit
at home,†he said. “Do something about your cause. I
don’t use marijuana. I never have and probably never will. But it
doesn’t stop me from saying, ‘it’s your right to do

Carolyn Lieber, who heads Riverside County Department of Health’s
Medical Marijuana Identification Card Program said, “I
don’t have a soapbox to stand on.â€

Instead, Lieber provided information on the county’s medical
marijuana card program.

Tuesday’s council meeting will be held at 7 p.m. at the Cultural
Center, 183 N. Main Street.

LA City Council members talk about their marijuana use

The Los Angeles City Council Tuesday is expected to approve a new
ordinance that would shut down most medical marijuana dispensaries in
the city. It would place a cap of 70, with up to about 140 pot shops
grandfathered in. KPCC surveyed councilmembers about whether
they’d ever smoked pot â€" medical or otherwise.

It was 1968, and Councilman Tom LaBonge was a high school kid sweet on a
girl. She offered him some pot.

“I was 15. It was after school. I was visiting a girl. And ya
know, that’s what you did then," said LaBonge.

He said he only did that again a couple more times.

In response to the same query, Councilmember Herb Wesson was coy.

“Let me say this. I know what weed is. I went to college in 1969.
And that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.â€

Councilman Paul Koretz sounded a similar tone.

“I won’t comment on what things were done in high school
and college. But I would say at a minimum it’s been many, many
years," he said.

Councilmen Tony Cardenas and Jose Huizar wouldn't even answer the

Many politicians still worry that an affirmative response would hurt
their careers, even though the president of the United States has
acknowledged he smoked pot as a young man.

Councilman Bill Rosendahl seems to have no such worries. Rosendahl, who
said his partner used cannabis for medical reasons before he died of
AIDS, readily admitted he’d smoked pot too.

“Yeah, I have. Sure. So has practically everybody."

Asked if he still smoked, Rosendahl clammed up. “That’s a
private matter."

Councilwoman Jan Perry said she'd never smoked anything because she has
allergies. But her younger sister had ingested marijuana pills before
she passed away at age 35.

“It did help her keep her appetite up and mitigated some of her
symptoms. So I think it would be a lot easier if we just legalized

Councilwoman Janice Hahn â€" the daughter of the late longtime L.A.
County Supervisor Kenny Hahn â€" never dared take a hit of pot.

“My father said ‘don’t do anything that you
don’t want to see on the front page of the L.A. Times
tomorrow.’ So I grew up afraid that I would embarrass my

Like many council members, Richard Alarcon said marijuana was hard to

“Well, ya know I grew up during the hippie era and I’m not
going to say I didn’t. I did. And interestingly, I don’t
think I ever purchased. If somebody was smoking at a party or something,
we would have done it."

Back in the day, they called that freeloading.

“Yes, I was very much a freeloader."

Councilmen Dennis Zine and Bernard Parks â€" both ex-police
officers â€" said they never smoked pot.

"When I joined the LAPD, if you have smoked marijuana or injected any
other drug, you would be disqualified," said Zine, who joined the
department in 1968. The rules have since been relaxed.

Councilman Greig Smith is a reserve LAPD cop, and self-described child
of the '60s. But he said he never used any drugs.

"This is not something I ever wanted to participate in for my personal
body," said Smith.

We didn’t get responses from Councilmen Ed Reyes and Paul

The L.A. City Council President Eric Garcetti stiffened when asked.

“I have,†he curtly said.

Does he smoke now?

"No I do not.â€

Councilman LaBonge recalled a party he attended as a teenager.

"I was the best dancer at the party and one of the girls asked me if I
smoke pot, and I felt bad because she thought I danced cool because I
smoked pot, and I said no, I don’t smoke pot," he said.

LaBonge said, "I never wanted to smoke pot again.â€

Except for that one time, he said, when he was in his twenties and
another girl offered it to him.

Now, he says, he prefers the high of hiking Griffith Park.

Los Angeles to Limit Marijuana Dispensaries

LOS ANGELES â€" The Los Angeles City Council approved an ordinance
on Tuesday that shutters roughly 80 percent of the nearly 1,000 medical
marijuana dispensaries in the city and makes the use of marijuana in the
remaining outlets illegal.

The vote amounts to a major setback for backers of medical marijuana and
a victory for community groups that have long complained about the
proliferation of the dispensaries near residential neighborhoods,
schools and parks. Los Angeles has more of the outlets than any other
city in the states that allow the use of marijuana for medical purposes.

“These are out of control,†said Councilman Ed Reyes,
chairman of the planning and land-use management committee, which
oversaw the writing of the ordinance. “Our city has more of these
than Starbucks.â€

The measure, which passed on a 9-to-3 vote, would impose stringent rules
on the location of the dispensaries â€" essentially moving them to
industrial zones â€" and restrict their hours. The ordinance, which
city officials acknowledged would be difficult to enforce, would limit
the number of dispensaries at 70 but suggested that even fewer would be
permitted if there was not ample space under the new parameters to
accommodate them.

The ordinance requires the signature of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa
before taking effect, and will require council-approved fees levied on
the dispensaries to cover the city’s cost of monitoring.

While medical marijuana use and sale have enjoyed general support
throughout the city and among lawmakers, the aggressive proliferation of
dispensaries in recent years has tried the patience of even the most
liberal of groups.

“I’ve seen enough people come into my committee, and you
can see they are hurting,†Mr. Reyes said. “So this is
very difficult.â€

The meeting was peppered with angry testimony from medical marijuana
users, who threatened to run lawmakers out of office, as well as
neighborhood association members who worried that enforcement would be

California voters approved the use of marijuana for medical purposes in
1996, and cities across the state have since struggled with how best to
regulate the distribution of the drug. Many cities have imposed
restrictions on the number and location of dispensaries, and Los Angeles
imposed a moratorium about two years ago while the City Council studied
the issue. In the meantime, however, hundreds of dispensaries continued
to open despite the ban.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Cruelty of Banning Medical Marijuana Patients from Transplant Lists

Recently the Los Angeles City Council held hearings on the thorny issue
of medical marijuana dispensary regulation. For years city officials
have abrogated their duty to create sensible regulations for the
dispensaries that have proliferated across the Los Angeles basin. The
number of dispensaries has ballooned to over 500 (not the 1,000+ often
claimed) following an ineffective moratorium on the retail medical
marijuana outlets.

As usual, the hearings were packed, with medical marijuana patients and
activists flooding the chambers to add their testimony to the record.
One citizen petitioning her government for a redress of grievances was
the Executive Director of the new Beverly Hills NORML 90210
(, Cheryl Shuman. In
sixty seconds of testimony, Cheryl recounts her own personal medical
marijuana tragedy, one that has befallen many desperately ill patients
who use cannabis â€" even legally â€" and require life-saving
organ transplants.

Watch video (1:26) -

Medical-marijuana users on uncertain ground in workplaces

DENVER â€" Last year, Dorian Beth Wenzel, a Manitou Springs, Colo.,
writer and arthritis sufferer, penned a letter to a local newspaper that
disclosed her status as a medical-marijuana patient.

The paper printed the letter, and soon afterward Wenzel found herself
face-to-face with the human-resources director of the nonprofit
organization she works for. Wenzel’s office, her HR director told
her, is a drug-free workplace.

“It is kind of scary when your HR department is telling you that
you could be fired,†Wenzel said. “And it’s like,
‘Why?’ â€

To Colorado’s already-vexing cannabis conundrum, add yet another
riddle: Are medical-marijuana patients protected from discipline under
their employers’ anti-drug policies?
In the past week, two other stories that pose such a question have

-- In the first, an Idaho Springs high school teacher and football coach
resigned from the school after being charged with smoking marijuana on
school grounds, even though he said he was a legal patient.

-- The second involves a Denver city employee who failed a routine drug
test taken after an on-duty car accident. The employee said
medical-marijuana use accounted for the positive test.

Can an employer punish someone for doing something that is
constitutionally protected?

“This issue is up in the air right now,†said Vance Knapp,
a Denver lawyer with Sherman & Howard who deals in employment law.
“It hasn’t been litigated through the courts.â€

In other words, nobody really knows yet.

The constitutional amendment that authorizes medical marijuana in
Colorado has this to say on the matter: “Nothing in this section
shall require any employer to accommodate the medical use of marijuana
in any work place.â€

That provision makes on-the-job use or impairment a clear violation at a
drug-free workplace, but the outer boundaries of the provision are
subject to greater debate.

Advocacy organizations contend that employers have interpreted the
language broadly, using it to punish even patients who use medical
marijuana in off-the-clock hours and never show up to work impaired, as
Wenzel said she doesn’t.

“It’s been deciphered to mean that employers can fire a
medical-marijuana patient for just about anything,†said Brian
Vicente, the executive director of the medical-marijuana patient-rights
group Sensible Colorado. “Basically, it’s a form of
legalized discrimination against sick people who choose to use medical

Courts ruling on similar questions in two other states â€"
California and Montana â€" have sided with employers in giving them
authority to fire medical-marijuana patients who fail company drug
tests. But there are two key ways in which Colorado’s laws differ
from those states:

- Colorado’s medical-marijuana law is embedded in the
state’s constitution rather than just statutes.

- Colorado has something called the Lawful Off-Duty Activities Statute,
which prevents employers from punishing employees for doing something
off-duty that is legal.

Boulder lawyer Jeff Gard, who represents medical-marijuana patients and
said he gets several calls per week from patients worried about keeping
their jobs, said state and federal anti-disability-discrimination laws
also would protect patients.

“You’re not going to tell a diabetic, ‘We’re
going to fire you for using insulin,’ †Gard said.

Knapp, the Denver lawyer, said marijuana’s status under federal
law as an illegal drug â€" no matter how it’s used â€"
could nullify all those laws’ protections. But he quickly noted
that an Arapahoe County judge’s recent ruling â€" in which
the judge said a city couldn’t cite federal law to shut down a
medical-marijuana dispensary â€" might counter that argument.

For now, Knapp said he is advising the employers who ask him about the
issue to update their anti-drug policies to specify that they include
drugs that are illegal according to federal law as well as locally.

“Employers need to be very cautious in addressing this situation
because there are a lot of land mines out there,†Knapp said.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Pot ruling may not have big impact on Seattle

Supporters of Washington's medical-marijuana law say Thursday's ruling
by the state Supreme Court allowing police to arrest a patient or search
his home is a major setback. But exactly how it will play out in
increasingly pot-friendly Seattle isn't so clear.

The state's law, the court determined, doesn't protect those with a
medical authorization from an arrest or search, and only allows them to
present a medical-marijuana defense after the fact at a trial.

The 8-1 ruling upheld the conviction of Stevens County resident Jason
Fry, arrested in 2004 for having 2 pounds of pot.

The justices said sheriff's officers who smelled marijuana smoke at his
home had probable cause to believe a crime was committed — even
after Fry presented them with an authorization from his doctor. In that
case, a Stevens County judge had ruled Fry wasn't a qualifying patient.

Thursday's decision specified that a judge must allow a jury to decide
whether someone is a qualifying patient under the law.

In Fry's case, his conviction stands because a defense lawyer also
conceded that Fry's anxiety and depression didn't qualify him for
medical pot under the law.

Dissenting Justice Richard Sanders argued that state voters intended to
protect qualifying patients from being denied "any right or privilege"
for their use of marijuana when they passed Initiative 692 in 1998,
which legalized the use of marijuana for people suffering from terminal
and debilitating illnesses.

A decade later in 2008, the state established a limit of 24 ounces of
usable marijuana and 15 plants for a qualifying patient's 60-day supply.

Thursday's ruling was "a disaster for us," said Steve Sarich, executive
director of the Kirkland-based patient-advocacy group, CannaCare.

"It basically says that no matter what, they can arrest you at will,
prosecute you at will, put you through the system, and cost you
thousands in legal fees, even though they know you're a legal patient.
That's just wrong. We are guilty until we can prove ourselves innocent."

The effect of the decision, Sarich said, will be to "embolden police and
prosecutors — at least outside of King County — to continue to
arrest and prosecute innocent patients."

In Seattle, it's possible the ruling won't stop any patients from using
marijuana — but simply gives options to law enforcement that are
unlikely to be used.

Since voters approved a measure in 2003, pot busts have been the lowest
priority for Seattle police. Department spokesman Sgt. Sean Whitcomb
said Thursday that "marijuana enforcement is still our lowest priority
per city law."

New Mayor Mike McGinn has said he supports legalizing marijuana in
Washington, and state Rep. Mary Lou Dickerson, D-Seattle, sponsored a
bill to legalize pot and sell it in state-run liquor stores to people 21
and older.

Her bill, along with one proposing marijuana possession be reduced from
a criminal to a civil offense, were voted down Wednesday by the House
Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Committee.

Meanwhile, new City Attorney Pete Holmes is making good on his campaign
promise to dismiss marijuana-possession cases including ones that were
already under way. He's taking action this week not to charge any
misdemeanor pot possession — which is less than 40 grams — said
spokeswoman Kathy Mulady.

Holmes didn't have a chance to thoroughly read Thursday's decision but
noted of the Fry ruling, "I might have made a different decision on
whether to prosecute this case at all."

Steve Trinen, an attorney in the Pierce County Prosecutor's Office,
argued the case before the Supreme Court and said he agreed with the
finding, but added the Legislature should clarify the law to better
protect legitimate patients.

For example, he said, lawmakers could set out procedures for getting
medical-marijuana authorization, "a large number of which appear to be
dubious at best," or based on very cursory examinations.

How the law shakes out in the rest of the state remains to be seen, but
Sarich said he hears every day about suffering patients whose homes are
constantly raided by police.

"This is the year that medical-marijuana patients are going to fight
back. We've hired attorneys and are going to start suing," Sarich said.

Marijuana grow operation found in former Broncos player's home

CENTENNIAL, Colo. - He was a popular running back with the Denver
Broncos, rushing for more than a 1,000 yards in 2004. Now, FOX 31 has
learned that Reuben Droughns is under investigation by the Drug
Enforcement Agency for growing marijuana inside his Centennial home.

Sources say Droughns is raising the medicinal marijuana defense, but the
DEA isn't immediately buying it. He's under investigation after federal
agents searched his Centennial home and found an indoor marijuana grow
operation in spare bedrooms.

Droughns was a running back for the Broncos from 2002 through 2004, and
then traded to the Cleveland Browns and in 2009 and eventually released
by the New York Giants.

A man pulled into the garage when a FOX 31 news crew visited his home,
but did not answer the door when we knocked.

We're told Droughns did not show investigators a medical marijuana card.
However, his mother and brother did.

Friends tell us that Droughns is a great guy who -quote- 'takes care of
his family to a fault."

While medical marijuana is legal in Colorado, possession and use still
violates federal law. Droughns was not under arrest as of Thursday

Sources explain that DEA policy is to not investigate grow operations
that are in compliance with state laws. So the fact the DEA continues to
investigate Droughns indicates they are not totally buying his

Sources also say Droughns held regular poker games at his home, and some
question whether they crossed a legal line. We're told the feds are
aware of those allegations, but are not investigating.

Kansas Senate votes to criminalize synthetic marijuana

TOPEKA | In their first legislative action of the year, Kansas senators
voted Thursday to criminalize synthetic marijuana.

The product — sold as incense under the brand name K2 — contains
a chemical that acts on the brain much like marijuana.

Kansas would be the first state in the nation to outlaw the product.

Possession of K2 or similar products would be a misdemeanor under the
bill. Lawmakers, who passed the measure 36-1, said they wanted to ban
the substance before it became widely abused.

The lone vote against the measure was cast by Democratic Sen. David
Haley of Kansas City, Kan. He noted that alcohol, tobacco, prescription
drugs, glue and paint thinner were much more dangerous than K2 when
abused, yet they were still legal.

Jeannine Koranda of The Wichita Eagle contributed to this report.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Marijuana issue goes mainstream with clinic

On Friday, the Montana Caregivers Network offers a daylong clinic at the
Red Lion Hotel Kalispell for people seeking physician evaluations needed
to apply for state registry cards to use medical marijuana.

People also can meet marijuana growers (known as caregivers) at
informational booths.

Network founder Jason Christ said the organization has helped more than
3,500 patients obtain registry cards from the Department of Public
Health and Human Services to use marijuana. He said he started the
network after a frustrating search for a doctor willing to provide the
required certification.

Montana law requires that a doctor certify that a patient has a
debilitating medical condition and that the benefits of using medical
marijuana outweigh the health risks.

The physician also certifies that a full assessment was made of the
patient's medical history and medical condition in the course of a
"bona fide physician-patient relationship."

"I had a real hard time getting a doctor in December of 2008,"
Christ said. "I'm a medical patient with a medical condition
that causes severe and chronic pain every day."

He finally found one in Victor. He waited a month and a half for an
appointment, then waited six and a half hours to get in to see the

Christ received a signed physician's statement and applied for the
registry card. He then faced the dilemma of finding a supplier or
growing his own medical marijuana without violating any laws.

Christ said he wound his way through a seeming mine field of problems
before finally finding pain relief through medical marijuana.

He said he used his frustration to develop an easier way for people in
pain to receive legal marijuana — what Montana voters approved with
a 62 percent "yes" vote in 2004.

Christ started Montana Caregivers Network to share his knowledge and
pave a smoother path for others who could benefit from marijuana use.

"I was in pain in 2008," he said. "We saw the first patient
in Missoula on July 24, 2009."

At a Montana Caregivers Network clinic in December in Kalispell, two
doctors saw 320 patients. Christ predicts a turnout of about 550 people

In a press release, the Montana Caregivers Network invited people
"tired of prescriptions and narcotics" to find "more
holistic ways" of dealing with illnesses through the medicinal
properties of marijuana.

"Cannabis can be ingested in foods, made into teas, tinctures,
muscle rubs and even vaporized to avoid carcinogenic qualities."

According to the Department of Public Health and Human Services Web
site, a debilitating medical condition qualifying a patient for medical
marijuana is defined as:

- (a) cancer, glaucoma, or positive status for HIV, AIDS or the
treatment of these conditions.

- (b) a chronic or debilitating disease or medical condition or its
treatment that produces one or more of wasting syndrome; severe or
chronic pain, severe nausea, seizures or severe or persistent muscle
spasms, including but not limited to those caused by Crohn's

- Any other medical condition or treatment for a medical condition
adopted by the department (although the state health department has not
added to the list).

Christ said people who want to attend Friday's clinic should make
appointments by calling (406) 207-7078. Walk-ins are accepted but may
wait longer. Wait times varied from a half an hour to two hours at
earlier clinics.

According to the organization's Web site, the cost is $150 or $100
for low-income people. The fee covers doctors' time and clinic

At noon and 6 p.m., the Montana Caregiver Network offers classes taught
by attorneys and growers about Montana's medical marijuana program
and its laws. Christ invites patients to meet marijuana producers from
this area and find out about the different strains grown for various

"Not every strain works for the same kind of pain," he said.

Christ said the network works with 20 doctors, all licensed in Montana.
He expected to bring about five to the clinic.

"I'd like to work with all the doctors, if possible," he

At the clinic, patients (who need to bring their medical records) go
through an intake process where they fill out paperwork, then see a
nurse or assistant. By the time they see the doctor, the physician has
reviewed their medical history, which cuts down the time for the

Those deemed qualified receive signed physician's statements. They
next need to apply for registration cards from the state.

For those not able to attend a clinic in person, the network has
initiated teleclinics where a doctor consults with a patient using
Internet technology.

For information, consult the Web site

Another organization, Montana Medical Grower's Association, has a
Web site,, with more information about
medical marijuana in Montana.

Pot campaigner lights up at police station

A cannabis protestor who once smoked a joint in Parliament has been
arrested for allegedly lighting up in public again – this time
outside Wellington Central Police Station.

Al Mansell said he did several spots of cannabis oil on the steps of the
station on Tuesday, using a bunsen burner he set up on a small folding

After a member of the public alerted police inside the station, Mansell
was arrested and charged with possession of cannabis and possesion of

Mansell said he rebuked the officers who arrested him, demanding to know
the whereabouts of his "neenish tart and flat white".

Senior Sergeant Brett Callander said Mansell was out of luck.

"We don't serve neenish tarts in the cells if that's what he was

He had clearly intended to be arrested, Mr Callander said.

"If you do something on the steps of the police station it's obviously a
publicity stunt."

After he was granted bail, Mansell posted footage of the stunt and his
arrest, filmed by a friend, on YouTube.

Mr Callander said police "may well" use the one-minute clip as evidence.

Mansell will appear in Wellington District Court on January 27, when he
intends to plead not guilty.

"I'll just drag it through the court and take as long as possible."

Palm Springs council relaxes regulation on medical marijuana

The Palm Springs City Council voted tonight to relax some regulations
for medical marijuana collective operators seeking to open dispensaries
in the city.

The 4-1 vote, with Councilman Weigel dissenting, gives more flexibility
to the proposed 500-foot minimum distance from schools, churches, homes
parks, city public information officer Amy Blaisdell said.

The proposed changes would enable the dispensaries to operate in a
retail center and reduce parking restrictions.

City Attorney Douglas Holland will bring a proposed urgency ordinance to
the council's Feb. 3 meeting that would make changes effective

The two permits to operate dispensaries could be issued at the meeting,
Blaisdell said.

Four applicants are vying to be right to operate dispensaries.

The city's medical marijuana ordinance, approved in March, allows two
collectives or cooperatives in compliance with state law to operate
within one of the city's three industrial zones.

The candidates seeking to open a facility are:

-- Cannahelp in the 500 block of East Industrial Place;

-- CAPS Apothecary in the 4000 block of Airport Center Drive;

-- Organic Solutions of the Desert in the 500 block of Williams Road;

-- Herbal Solutions in the 4700 block of Ramon Road.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Stink grows over pot control

Jackson County commissioners Tuesday decided to prod legislators for a
solution to neighbor complaints about legal marijuana gardens rather
than pursue local controls.

Commissioners said it would be too complicated to enact a local
ordinance to deal with odors, traffic, lights and other issues that have
been reported over pot gardens in rural areas.

"Quite frankly, smell would be difficult to regulate," said Kelly
Madding, director of Development Services.

She said the legal gardens are considered a not-for-profit agricultural
crop, so they don't fall under the same constraints as a business.

Madding said a local ordinance, which likely would be challenged in the
courts, would require a significant increase in the cost of code

Commissioner Jack Walker said the current law is difficult to enforce
because of the way it's written.

"No way in the world can you regulate it," he said.

The county drafted a concept law and sent it to legislators asking for
more regulation of medical marijuana grow sites, including alerting law
enforcement about new gardens.

Legislators might not carry the bill forward for the county until they
see how voters respond to several initiatives regarding medical
marijuana that could be on the November ballot.

Mel Barniskis, information manager for Southern Oregon NORML, a cannabis
resource and information center at 332 W. Sixth St., Medford, criticized
the tenor of the county's proposed legislation.

"It seems to serve the purposes of law enforcement, but doesn't address
the welfare of patients," she said. "It seems to put more hardships on

Commissioners propose limiting the amount of marijuana on hand at any
one time and restricting patients to possessing one ounce. Instead of
six plants for a patient, commissioners propose allowing only two mature
plants plus two seedlings.

"Allowing so much marijuana provides a clear opportunity for abuse," the
concept legislation stated.

With 2,418 medical marijuana cardholders, Jackson County has the third
highest number of patients using the drug behind Multnomah and Lane
counties, according to the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program.

Under current law, a grower can have up to six mature plants and 18
starts and seedlings per patient for up to four patients.

Barniskis said the concept legislation shows a lack of understanding
about the way medical marijuana is grown and used.

Barniskis said there is a big difference in the amount of marijuana that
can be grown indoors versus outdoors. An indoor plant generally produces
several ounces, while an outdoor plant can produce a couple of pounds,
she said. Having additional plants helps ensure a grower won't
experience a complete crop failure should bug infestations or mold

Patients' needs for the medication vary wildly, she said. Some ingest
the drug because they can't or don't like to smoke it, which requires
more plant material to produce the medicinal effect, she said. Some
patients require more than an ounce a week to deal with a particular
health problem, Barniskis said.

Patients sometimes drive long distances to obtain their medication, so
limiting them to just one ounce would also be a problem, she said.

Commissioners want to prohibit grow sites within 1,000 feet of a school.
Barniskis said her organization encourages renters who want to grow
medical marijuana to move to a different area. In other cases, where
someone owns a house, she said NORML strongly advises the growers who
are near schools to make sure the plants aren't visible and to take
precautions to reduce the smell.

Commissioners acknowledged that initiatives in the works could change
Oregon's marijuana laws.

In particular, Initiative 28 proposes creating a regulatory process
through the Oregon Department of Human Services to keep better track of
growing operations.

John Sajo, executive director of Voter Power, an organization backing
Initiative 28, said if voters enact the initiative, it would create more
regulatory authority and would resolve some of the problems such as
large gardens.

He said the initiative would provide a role for county government to
potentially enforce zoning restrictions on marijuana gardens.

Legality issues further clouded by recent pot-dispensary arrests

The arrest of three people who police said were running a one-stop pot
shop has highlighted yet another murky corner of the state's
medical-marijuana law, people on all sides of the issue said Tuesday.

Investigators with the North Metro Drug Task Force arrested the trio
Saturday in Brighton on suspicion of felony drug-distribution charges,
after officers broke up what they described as an "assembly line" to
give patients medical-marijuana recommendations and then pot.

Task force Sgt. Jim Gerhardt said the reason for the arrests was that
police believe the people running the operation were selling marijuana
to people who couldn't legally buy it, even though they had received the
required doctor recommendation.

Ultimately, the case hinges on a single question: When is a
medical-marijuana patient legally able to purchase marijuana?

"Nobody knows exactly what is in bounds and what is out of bounds,"
Gerhardt said.

Jeffrey Gappa, a Brighton chiropractor at whose office the incident took
place, and his wife, Christy, were arrested. Gappa did not respond to a
request for comment. Also arrested was Forrest Charlesworth, who
Gerhardt said was dispensing the marijuana.

Colorado medical-marijuana patients who hold a registry card from the
state are shielded from arrest. But with the state running months behind
in getting eligible patients their cards, thousands of patients are
operating in a paperwork gray area, using their doctor's note and other
documents to verify their legal status.

Gerhardt said patients waiting for cards need to show their
recommendation and proof that they've sent their registry application to
the state to be unquestionably legal.

"If they haven't gotten their paperwork into the state, they're not yet
eligible," Gerhardt said.

That was the reason for the arrests Saturday, when police allege
patients who had just received a recommendation went straight to buying

Ned Calonge, Colorado's chief medical officer, said the state has 35
days to issue a card. If it can't meet that deadline — as it can't
now — then the application is deemed approved.

"You couldn't get (the doctor's recommendation) signed that day and be
considered to be on the registry," he said.

But, under the state constitutional provision approving medical
marijuana, patients don't need the state's permission to be legal, said
Matt Brown of the Coloradans for Medical Marijuana Regulation advocacy

Instead, patients who have a doctor's recommendation but aren't on the
state registry can use the recommendation as an affirmative defense if
they are arrested.

Gerhardt said the Adams County district attorney's office will weigh
that provision when deciding whether to pursue formal charges.

The whole situation frustrates dispensary owners who say they just want
to operate lawful, responsible businesses.

Josh Stanley, who owns Peace and Medicine in Denver, said he turns away
more than half the people who come to his dispensary looking for a
doctor's recommendation and said he requires patients to have applied to
the state registry before being able to shop at the dispensary.

He said he hopes state lawmakers will create regulations this year that
give clarity to both police and dispensary owners.

"Once the regulations come in that we're asking for, that will naturally
push out the people who want to do it the wrong way," he said.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Are there any medical facts for marijuana?

Charlene DeGidio never smoked marijuana in the 1960s, or afterward. But
a year ago, after medications failed to relieve the pain in her legs and
feet, a doctor suggested that the Adna, Wash., retiree try the drug.

Ms. DeGidio, 69 years old, bought candy with marijuana mixed in. It
worked in easing her neuropathic pain, for which doctors haven't been
able to pinpoint a cause, she says. Now, Ms. DeGidio, who had previously
tried without success other drugs including Neurontin and lidocaine
patches, nibbles marijuana-laced peppermint bars before sleep, and keeps
a bag in her refrigerator that she's warned her grandchildren to avoid.

"It's not like you're out smoking pot for enjoyment or to get high,"
says the former social worker, who won't take the drug during the day
because she doesn't want to feel disoriented. "It's a medicine."

For many patients like Ms. DeGidio, it's getting easier to access
marijuana for medical use. The U.S. Department of Justice has said it
will not generally prosecute ill people under doctors' care whose use of
the drug complies with state rules. New Jersey will become the 14th
state to allow therapeutic use of marijuana, and the number is likely to
grow. Illinois and New York, among others, are considering new laws.

As the legal landscape for patients clears somewhat, the medical one
remains confusing, largely because of limited scientific studies. A
recent American Medical Association review found fewer than 20
randomized, controlled clinical trials of smoked marijuana for all
possible uses. These involved around 300 people in all—well short of
the evidence typically required for a pharmaceutical to be marketed in
the U.S.

Doctors say the studies that have been done suggest marijuana can
benefit patients in the areas of managing neuropathic pain, which is
caused by certain types of nerve injury, and in bolstering appetite and
treating nausea, for instance in cancer patients undergoing
chemotherapy. "The evidence is mounting" for those uses, says Igor
Grant, director of the Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research at the
University of California, San Diego.

But in a range of other conditions for which marijuana has been
considered, such as epilepsy and immune diseases like lupus, there's
scant and inconclusive research to show the drug's effectiveness.
Marijuana also has been tied to side effects including a racing heart
and short-term memory loss and, in at least a few cases, anxiety and
psychotic experiences such as hallucinations. The Food and Drug
Administration doesn't regulate marijuana, so the quality and potency of
the product available in medical-marijuana dispensaries can vary.

Though states have been legalizing medical use of marijuana since 1996,
when California passed a ballot initiative, the idea remains
controversial. Opponents say such laws can open a door to wider
cultivation and use of the drug by people without serious medical
conditions. That concern is heightened, they say, when broadly written
statutes, such as California's, allow wide leeway for doctors to decide
when to write marijuana recommendations.

But advocates of medical-marijuana laws say certain seriously ill
patients can benefit from the drug and should be able to access it with
a doctor's permission. They argue that some patients may get better
results from marijuana than from available prescription drugs.

Glenn Osaki, 51, a technology consultant from Pleasanton, Calif., says
he smokes marijuana to counter nausea and pain. Diagnosed in 2005 with
advanced colon cancer, he has had his entire colon removed, creating
digestive problems, and suffers neuropathic pain in his hands and feet
from a chemotherapy drug. He says smoking marijuana was more effective
and faster than prescription drugs he tried, including one that is a
synthetic version of marijuana's most active ingredient, known as THC.

The relatively limited research supporting medical marijuana poses
practical challenges for doctors and patients who want to consider it as
a therapeutic option. It's often unclear when, or whether, it might work
better than traditional drugs for particular people. Unlike prescription
drugs it comes with no established dosing regimen.

"I don't know what to recommend to patients about what to use, how much
to use, where to get it," says Scott Fishman, chief of pain medicine at
the University of California, Davis medical school, who says he rarely
writes marijuana recommendations, typically only at a patient's request.

Researchers say it's difficult to get funding and federal approval for
marijuana research. In November, the AMA urged the federal government to
review marijuana's position in the most-restricted category of drugs, so
it could be studied more easily.

Gregory T. Carter, a University of Washington professor of
rehabilitation medicine, says he's developed his own procedures for
recommending marijuana, which he does for some patients with serious
neuromuscular conditions such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou
Gehrig's disease, to treat pain and other symptoms. He typically urges
those who haven't tried it before to start with a few puffs using a
vaporizer, which heats the marijuana to release its active chemicals,
then wait 10 minutes. He warns them to have family nearby and to avoid
driving, and he checks back with them after a few days. Many are
"surprised at how mild" the drug's psychotropic effects are, he says.

States' rules on growing and dispensing medical marijuana vary. Some
states license specialized dispensaries. These can range from small
storefronts to bigger operations that feel more like pharmacies.
Typically, they have security procedures to limit walk-in visitors.

At least a few dispensaries say they inspect their suppliers and use
labs to check the potency of their product, though states don't
generally require such measures. "It's difficult to understand how we
can call it medicine if we don't know what's in it," says Stephen
DeAngelo, executive director of the Harborside Health Center, a
medical-marijuana dispensary in Oakland, Calif.

Some of the strongest research results support the idea of using
marijuana to relieve neuropathic pain. For example, a trial of 50 AIDS
patients published in the journal Neurology in 2007 found that 52% of
those who smoked marijuana reported a 30% or greater reduction in pain.
Just 24% of those who got placebo cigarettes reported the same lessening
of pain.

Marijuana has also been shown to affect nausea and appetite. The AMA
review said three controlled studies with 43 total participants showed a
"modest" anti-nausea effect of smoked marijuana in cancer patients
undergoing chemotherapy. Studies of HIV-positive patients have suggested
that smoked marijuana can improve appetite and trigger weight gain.

Donald Abrams, a doctor and professor at the University of California,
San Francisco who has studied marijuana, says he recommends it to some
cancer patients, including those who haven't found standard anti-nausea
drugs effective and some with loss of appetite.

Side effects can be a problem for some people. Thea Sagen, 62, an
advanced neuroendocrine cancer patient in Seaside, Calif., says she
expected something like a pharmacy when she went to a marijuana
dispensary mentioned by her oncologist. She says she was disappointed to
find that the staffers couldn't say which of the products, with names
like Pot 'o Gold and Blockbuster, might boost her flagging appetite or
soothe her anxiety. "They said, 'it's trial and error,' "she says. "I
was in there flying blind, looking at all this stuff."

Ms. Sagen says she bought several items and tried one-eighth teaspoon of
marijuana-infused honey. After a few hours, she was hallucinating , too
dizzy and confused to dress herself for a doctor's appointment. Then
came vomiting far worse than her stomach upset before she took the drug.
When she reported the side effects to her oncologist's nurse and her
primary-care physician, she got no guidance. She doesn't take the drug
now. But with advice from a nutritionist, her appetite and food intake
have improved, she says.

Other marijuana users may experience the well-known reduction in ability
to concentrate. At least a few users suffer troubling short-term
psychiatric side effects, which can include anxiety and panic. More
controversially, an analysis published in the journal Lancet in 2007
tied marijuana use to a higher rate of psychotic conditions such as
schizophrenia. But the analysis noted that such a link doesn't
necessarily show marijuana is a cause of the conditions.

Long-term marijuana use can lead to physical dependence, though it is
not as addictive as nicotine or alcohol, says Margaret Haney, a
professor at Columbia University's medical school. Smoked marijuana may
also risk lung irritation, but a large 2006 study, published in Cancer
Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, found no tie to lung cancer.

school district to weigh in on dispensaries in Grass Valley

High school leaders will consider opposing a medical marijuana
dispensary in Grass Valley during their meeting Wednesday.

Staff for the Nevada Joint Union High School District cited the negative
impact on local youth from the sanctioned sale of medical marijuana in
the resolution that goes before the board of trustees when they meet at
6 p.m. Wednesday at Nevada Union High School, on Ridge Road in Grass

The Grass Valley City Council could consider allowing a medical
marijuana dispensary sometime this year, after placing a moratorium on
any such businesses coming into town while an ordinance regulating them
is crafted.

Nevada County similarly put off the issue, and Nevada City banned
dispensaries late last year in a controversial vote. A dispensary
operates in Colfax, in Placer County.

High school district staff is recommending the board oppose the move due
to "the potential impact on the youth of the city of Grass Valley
from the ancillary consequences of the sale of medical marijuana,"
according to the staff report.

Board members requested the resolution because of the effect marijuana
already has on local high school students, said district Superintendent
Ralf Swenson.

"Discipline issues related to marijuana already represent the
majority of the disciplinary actions our district takes," Swenson

"We're concerned the presence of dispensaries in our community sends
the wrong message to students."

The district's concerns will be weighed when council members address the
issue of medical marijuana dispensaries, said Grass Valley Mayor Lisa

"No one has made up their mind yet," Swarthout said.

The city's ordinance is still in the works, and a date for it to come
before the council isn't set, she added.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

restitution for law enforcement blunder

Was it sheer contempt of the law or a bureaucratic bumble? Whatever
happened, the county could be on the hook for nearly $40,000 to replace
Kimberley Marshall’s pot.

The 46-year old Los Osos resident filed a claim for damages against
Sheriff Patrick Hedges and the county alleging the sheriff’s
department unlawfully seized, and then had destroyed, six pounds of
medicinal marijuana. If successful, Marshall could be the first medical
marijuana patient in San Luis Obispo County awarded monetary
compensation for confiscated cannabis.

Marshall, a survivor of liver cancer, suffers daily chronic pain after
two surgeries for lumbar and other injuries, among multiple afflictions,
according to the claim filed Dec. 23. She is seeking
$36,000â€"$6,000 per pound of marijuana destroyedâ€"plus
attorney fees and damages.

On March 31, sheriff’s deputies entered Marshall’s home in
a warrantless search involving her son, who was on probation. Somehow
during the course of the search, deputies discovered her 18-month supply
of marijuana, which the claim states was secured in a locked closet in
her bedroom.

The deputies were reportedly told by Marshall’s son the marijuana
was medicinal and she was contacted; over the phone, she explained her
condition and demanded the pot be left at the home. The claim also
states that Marshall’s documentation was visible to the deputies
during the search, but when she returned, she allegedly found it behind
some furniture in her bedroom.

Marshall was told by deputies that once she showed proper paperwork, her
property would be returned. Four months later, when finally interviewed
by a deputy, she presented her physician’s letter of
recommendation and told deputies further documentation of her medical
condition was in the possession of her lawyer at the time, Harold
Mesick, who said he was in contact with the district attorney’s
office regarding the pending criminal charges. On September 1, the
district attorney rejected the criminal case based on her medical

Then something strange happened. The very next day the sheriff’s
department notified the D.A.’s office that the cannabis in lockup
was no longer neededâ€"that they had not received a request for a
return of property nor deemed the marijuana for medicinal
purposesâ€"and requested the D.A. obtain a court order for its

On Oct. 5, the D.A. filed the request, and four days later, Judge Dodie
Harmon ordered the property destroyed. Unaware of this, Mesick filed a
request for the return of the property on Oct. 22 and was later told by
the county counsel that it had already been destroyed and that the
sheriff’s department had no record of Marshall’s
physician’s recommendation.

Asked why the return request was not made until a month after the D.A.
rejected Marshall’s case, Mesick could not comment.

“Basically, due process wasn’t followed in this
case,†said Louis Koory, Marshall’s civil attorney.
“Every citizen has a right to retain their property. There is a
procedure that needs to be followed, and in this case,
it wasn’t.â€

According to Koory, because there were no pending criminal charges, and
because Mesick had already established Marshall was a qualified medical
cannabis patient, the sheriff’s department violated her due
process rights and deprived her of the use and value of her property by
having the cannabis destroyed. Koory told New Times he has no indication
that the destruction of Marshall’s property was contemptuous and
that it may have been as simple as a lack of communication between two

“We’re not saying it was intentional, but it
doesn’t have to be intentional,†Koory said. “It
could very well be negligent. Bottom line is, she’s owed

The sheriff’s department could not comment on the case either,
except to say that it’s a publicity stunt by medical marijuana

“Cases like these are brought on by the medical marijuana lobby
as a way to garner publicity,†sheriff’s department
spokesman Rob Bryn said. “And in this case, the sheriffs
department is not willing to play along.â€

“All I can tell you is that this case is much more complicated
than originally reported,†he added.

According to Bryn, department protocol for the destruction of property
deemed either illegal or no longer related to a criminal case varies
depending on the type of property. When it comes to marijuana, he said,
it is taken to an undisclosed location out of the county in an armed
caravan and incinerated with state and federal oversight.

Should Marshall succeed in her claim, she would be the first medical
marijuana patient in the county to be reimbursed for seized marijuana.

In July, a landmark ruling in Butte County determined a qualified
medical marijuana patient may continue an action for damages against the
county for the alleged unlawful seizure of medical marijuana plants.
While the Marshall case does not involve plants per se, Koory maintained
that the Butte case provides a legal precedent for their claim.

The SLO County Sheriff’s Department has earned a reputation as
particularly aggressive when it comes to medical marijuana. In 2008,
Sheriff Pat Hedges refused to return a small bag of pot to Arroyo Grande
resident D. Craig Steffens, even after Steffens established he had a
physician’s recommendation and criminal charges against him were
dropped. A judge ordered Hedges to return the cannabis, but Hedges
refused until threatened with a contempt-of-court order.

Under county medicinal marijuana law, a qualified patient can possess up
to eight ounces of pot, unless a licensed physician recommends a larger

According to Koory, Marshall’s claim is in review and the county
counsel has six months to accept or reject it. He expects the latter. At
that point, Marshall could choose to file a civil lawsuit against Hedges
and the county.

La Puente sets new rules for its dispensaries.

LA PUENTE - La Puente will allow more marijuana dispensaries than any
city in the San Gabriel Valley, according to a law passed Tuesday.

The City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved an ordinance that caps
the number of medical marijuana dispensaries at six.

The law was La Puente's first step to reign in medical marijuana

At least two dispensaries opened last year, but the city had no law in
place to specifically regulate marijuana sales, officials said.

"It was absolutely necessary to put restrictions on these businesses,"
said Councilman Dan Holloway. "Although I wish we had done it a year

The new law includes a number of strict regulations, which officials
said are a happy medium between both sides of the marijuana issue.

Most cities with laws regulating marijuana dispensaries allow just one
or two shops.

From September to December 2009, five business licenses for medical
marijuana dispensaries were approved in La Puente and one application
was pending - the reason why the city approved the dispensary cap at
six. City Manager Josi Kenline did not return four calls seeking
information about how many of the dispensaries have opened.

In La Puente, dispensaries can operate from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., and a
security guard - who can be armed - must patrol the area surrounding the

"I don't believe that the City Council is against these types of
businesses as long as they are run properly and adhere to the
restrictions," said Mayor Louie Lujan.

La Puente formerly had a dispensary moratorium in place, but the law
lapsed without extension in September 2008. A proposal for an outright
ban failed in August 2008.

The first shop was the La Puente Medical Cannabis Center, which opened
in late November near Glendora Avenue and Hacienda Boulevard.

A second shop, opened in late December, decided to close its doors after
city building inspectors found code violations, Lujan said.

La Puente dispensaries will still have to deal with Los Angeles County
District Attorney Steve Cooley, who said in November that he would
prosecute medical marijuana shops - even those protected by city

Lujan, who failed to support the permanent ban on dispensaries in 2008,
said his support had nothing to do with a political action committee led
by prominent medical-marijuana advocates, including his brother Philip

The committee, named "Coalition for a Safe and Clean Environment," paid
$4,025 in mailers and money to council members Holloway, Lujan and Nadia
Mendoza, campaign finance records show.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Washington pushing to legalize Marijuana

SEATTLE (AP) - Five activists filed a ballot initiative Monday that
would legalize all adult marijuana possession, manufacturing and sales
under Washington state law - one of the most sweeping efforts at
marijuana reform playing out around the country this year.

Its sponsors include two Seattle lawyers and the director of Seattle's
annual Hempfest. They call themselves Sensible Washington, and say that
in a time of dire budget woes, the state's government should stop
spending money on police, court and jail costs for people who use or
produce marijuana.

Douglas Hiatt, a lawyer who represents medical marijuana patients, told
The Associated Press the proposal would remove all state criminal
penalties for adults who possess, grow and distribute pot - no matter
how much. Criminal penalties for juveniles who possess marijuana and for
those who provide the drug to juveniles would remain in place.

Driving under the influence of the drug also would still be against the
law. And marijuana would remain illegal under federal law.

"It basically tells the federal government, 'Hey it's your prohibition -
if you want it, you pay for it,"' Hiatt said. "We're tired of screwing
around and wasting all this dough."

Volunteers are lining up to collect the more than 241,000 signatures
required to place the initiative on the November ballot, Hiatt said.

The campaign has competition in Washington. One bill introduced here
would legalize and regulate marijuana, while another would decriminalize
possession of small amounts of pot, making it punishable by a fine
rather than jail time.

Legalization bills have also been introduced in California,
Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Nevada, and a group campaigning to
place a marijuana legalization measure before California voters said
last month that it has enough signatures to qualify for this year's

Alison Holcomb, drug policy director at the American Civil Liberties
Union of Washington, which is lobbying for the decriminalization bill,
said she supports any effort to engage the public in discussing
marijuana law reform, but she couldn't comment specifically on the
initiative without reading it.

"If there were decriminalization of transfers of small amounts of
marijuana not for profit, that might be one way to undermine the
cartels' bottom line," she said. "But I think the push-back would be,
are you just giving the gangsters a get-out-of-jail-free card in
Washington state? Are you setting up incentives for criminal elements to
come here and set up shop?"

Hiatt disputed that notion, saying the drug flourishes on the black
market only because it is illegal. Furthermore, federal agents wouldn't
stand for large-scale marijuana trafficking, he said.

He cited one recent study suggesting Washington could save tens of
millions of dollars a year on law enforcement costs if marijuana was

Hiatt said he was inspired to file the initiative in part by a recent
conversation with Mason County prosecutor Gary Burleson, who told him to
"put your money where your mouth is" and get an initiative before

In an interview Monday, Burleson said he doesn't necessarily support
legalizing marijuana - and certainly not in the unlimited, unregulated
way the initiative proposes. But he said he's frustrated with
Washington's complicated medical marijuana law, which authorizes
patients to possess marijuana but is vague about how they can obtain it.

"Wouldn't legalizing this answer a whole lot of questions?" he said.
"Aren't we just beating around the edges with all of these legal

"I don't have a problem with marijuana being legal, and I don't have a
problem with it being illegal," Burleson said. "But right now, I have a
big problem understanding what's legal and what's not."

Pot business is expanding

( -- Entrepreneur John Lee thinks the pot business is ready
for its own

The numbers back him up. Marijuana is California's biggest cash crop,
generating sales estimated at $14 billion a year. Thanks to the state's
increasingly liberal medical marijuana laws, more of that money than
ever before is being spent legally.

Which leaves sellers with new challenges: Taxes. Invoices. Supply chain
management. Regulatory compliance.

Enter PlainView Systems, a four-month-old Sonoma startup that aims to
bring sophisticated business management tools to an industry that has
only recently begun operating like one. "It's a business where everyone
is very, very paranoid," Lee says.

PlainView's "compassionate care marketplace" is a business-to-business
exchange for licensed providers of medical marijuana and their patients.
Participants can band together to form growing collectives -- a legal
requirement for those that want to sell pot -- and cut deals with other
members to buy and sell their inventory. The system also helps users
sellers keep their records in order, generating invoices, sales reports
and tax paperwork.

Evan, who asked that his last name not be used, is one of the site's
early clients. Now 23, he's been growing cannabis and supplying it to a
dispensary since he was 18 -- when it became legal for him to do so, he
is very careful to say. He uses PlainView to invoice his buyers and
order seeds and fertilizer for his crop.

"I'm just a small-time grower," Evan says. "Anytime I have extra, I can
sell it to [a dispensary] for $2,000 to $4,000."

Actually, even the word "selling" is a legal no-no with the dispensary
that Evan works with. "They're 'reimbursing you for your time,' that's
how they like you to say it," he says.

That semantic footsie is a sign of how California is approaching its
controversial crawl toward de facto pot legalization: By burying it in
red tape. Local municipalities have drawn up a thicket of regulations
specifying how, and how much, cannabis each individual merchant can
grow, transport and sell. For Lee, that blizzard of bureaucracy is a
business opportunity. It means sellers will need help keeping their
paperwork straight.

"Just in the state of California alone, according to my calculations,
medical cannabis is a $200 million market," Lee estimates. "As that
market grows, we want to have a small but significant part of."

But the formerly underground industry isn't exactly scrambling to shape
up and fly straight. Four California dispensaries didn't return calls
and e-mails seeking comment on PlainView Systems' business model.

"A lot of them are still on the edge of the law and may not want the
publicity," theorizes Andy Cookston, who owns Cannabis Medical, a clinic
in Denver that grows and dispenses its own marijuana on the premises and
dispense it.

Cookston says that he appreciates Lee's "idealism." If PlanView Systems
does ultimately help growers and dispensaries operate within the law,
"I'm all for that," he says. "His business makes great sense."

Lee never expected to work in the drug trade. A lifelong IT
professional, he held an executive position at media software maker Real
Networks before losing his job to a layoff in February. Soon after,
Lee's brother saw a news story on CNBC about California's growing
medical cannabis industry and called up to suggest it as a career
option. "And I thought, 'OK, I'll go take a look,'" Lee says.

He didn't want to start a dispensary and knew cannabis farming wasn't in
his future. But his quarter-century of experience in technology seemed
like a useful fit for the fast-growing cannabis field.

Fourteen states have legalized some form of medical marijuana, and new
signs of acceptance turn up almost daily. The American Medical
Association recently softened its stance on the drug, recommending that
some federal controls on it be relaxed, and the Obama administration
reversed a Bush era policy and said it would stop federally prosecuting
medical marijuana users and suppliers who comply with their state laws.
Every step creates more potential clients for PlainView.

Lee still gets the jokes from friends -- "So, you're a pot dealer now?"

"Not exactly," he responds. "I don't touch any of the material. I'm not
part of the transaction."

But if all goes as planned, he intends to be part of a multi-million
dollar solution.